The featured photo above is a picture of me and the class of 15-16 year old students in an English class that I assisted with while studying abroad in Spain. I was able to share a little bit about the U.S. with them through my lessons and am excited to put together a picture file of Spain for American students interested in learning more about the country and it’s culture.
Below you can find a few pictures I’ve decided to start with in order to better depict how Spaniards tend to spend their time. Shortly after arriving in Spain, I was told that the biggest difference between the U.S. and Spain is that Spaniards work to live while Americans, they live to work. I thought that was a very interesting statement and have decided to delve a little deeper into the concept of time and how it’s broken down in Spain.
After viewing the photos and reading the descriptions, I want students to better understand how people spend their time in Spain and start thinking about how the way we spend our time can help clarify and define a society’s values.
Photo 1 – This photo is a street in Ronda, Spain, in Andalusia. One thing to note is how close together the buildings are. Southern Spain has a rich history of Moorish influence which can explain a number of architectural and city planning techniques in the Andalusia region. One main reason that the buildings are so close together is to keep houses cool during the heat of the summer. Close buildings created more shade in the alleys and less sunlight through house windows.
The small alley ways don’t lend themselves very well to cars or even scooters so people have to walk. Most cities in southern Spain are very walkable and from my experience, Spaniards walk a lot! While living in Sevilla I probably walked 5 miles a day, if not more. This means that you have to allot for travel time in your schedule in Spain.
How long does it take you to walk to the grocery store? The university? How walkable is your hometown in the U.S.? Is it faster for you to walk or drive places? Would you rather take your time and walk or get to your destination quickly in a car? Why?
Photo 2 – Bullfighting is a well-known tradition in Andalusia and some Spaniards view it as not only a sport but an art form. Although many families with children of all ages come out to see the bullfights, it’s not as popular in all parts of Spain as some may think.
In northern parts of Spain, in cities like Barcelona, bullfighting has been banned by animal rights activists and other groups that oppose it. For those who do choose to attend bullfights, they must be willing to dedicate a few hours of their afternoon to it. It’s not a quick sport. It is very meticulous and takes a lot of skill and patience and can last 3 or 4 hours.
Can you think of any sports that are popular in the U.S.? Do Americans spend a lot of time watching sporting events or artistic showcases? If so, why? Do all Americans like sports or art?
Photo 3 – Semana Santa is the Spanish Holy Week taking place in the Spring. Churches prepare very intricate floats depicting religious figures and during Semana Santa, they participate in processionals through the city of Sevilla, and many other cities in Spain. Each float weighs hundreds of pounds and are supported by men that walk however many miles it takes to get from their church to the main cathedral and back. Some floats are accompanied by bands that play traditional procession music.
The city essentially shuts down for a week and thousands of people come out to the streets to take part in the holy week. Spaniards do not go to work or school and many shops close too in order to allow all employees to participate in the festivities.
Do we get religious holidays off of work and school in the U.S.? How long do we get off? Do all stores shut down so employees don’t have to work or just some?
Photo 4 – A traditional Spanish dish, Paella consists of rice and a number of different shellfish and is a perfect example of the healthy Mediterranean diet of fresh seafood and cooking with olive oil. Spaniards, more than likely, are not going to eat Paella every night for dinner in their houses but it is a popular dish to order out at restaurants for large groups of people. This picture was taken at an all-you-can-eat Paella restaurant during lunch time.
Lunch is the heaviest meal of the day in Spain. During the siesta, a 2-3 hours break in the middle of the afternoon, Spaniards leave work and school to return home for lunch with their families. Lunch often consists of 2-3 courses and very heavy while breakfast and dinner are often much lighter meals.
What is typically the heaviest meal of the day for Americans? How long do we get to eat lunch in the U.S.? How much time do we spend sharing meals with our families in the U.S.? Why do you think that is?
Photo 5 – Many universities in Europe are hundreds of years old and the University of Seville is no different. Once an old tobacco factory, the main University of Seville building houses a number of different departments. This is an example of a common seating arrangement in the university.
Take note of the laptop on the table and students chatting before class, like many American universities, students are expected to be attentive and take notes during class but often times punctuality is not as important. It’s not uncommon to see professors and students arrive 5, 10, maybe even 15 minutes late to class without a care in the world. There is no rush or panic when they do arrive, they simply just start their lesson after they get settled.
Is it acceptable for you to be late to class? What if your teacher is late to class? Do people tend to be punctual in the U.S. or no? Does it depend on the setting?
Photo 6 – Feria de Abril or April Fair is a festival that occurs every spring after Semana Santa in Sevilla, Spain. Women and girls dress up in traditional flamenco dresses, men wear suits, and everyone walks to the fair grounds for dancing, fair rides and food.
It’s important to notice how similar this is to a state fair we would see in the U.S. with fried foods and rides and people of all ages in attendance. In Spain, however, this is a week that everyone gets off of work and school. April Fair is essentially a second spring break for Spaniards, following Semana Santa, except it’s not only students that benefit from it but everyone else too.
Why do you think Spaniards take the entire week off of work and school to participate in April Fair? Could Americans do that? How would Americans react to two weeks off during the spring that were meant for enjoying dances, games, rides, food, family and friends?
Photo 7 – Street performers are a common form of entertainment in Spain from the southern city of Seville to Barcelona in the North. These street performers were performing off the boardwalk near the beach in Barcelona. It is not uncommon for Spaniards to spend their 2-3 hour lunch breaks during the week or the entire weekend out walking the city enjoying free entertainment without worrying about anything else.
Do you ever get to enjoy free music and performances during lunch or walking through your hometown? How often? Do you or your parents find it easy to take a break for 2-3 hours from work to enjoy the city you live in? Would your schedule allow for a 2-3 hour break?
Photo 8 – Flamenco is a very popular type of music in Spain, especially in Andalusia. Aside from Flamenco, the city of Seville also has a style of dance called Sevillanas. Many Spaniards, young and old, learn to dance Sevillanas and during Feria de Abril (April Fair) it isn’t uncommon to see people start dancing Sevillanas in the middle of the fairground and in private fair tents.
Sevillanas and Flamenco are commonly performed in restaurants and bars around Sevilla as well. Many Spaniards will go out for tapas, small appetizers, and drinks after the work day to spend time with friends, maybe watch Flamenco performances and relax before heading home for the night and a late dinner .
What do you do at the end of your school or work day?
Hopefully after viewing the photos and reading the captions you have a better idea of how Spaniards spend their days, whether it’s walking to and from work and school, spending 2 hours for lunch at home with their families, enjoying a Sunday afternoon bullfights, attending class at the local university or or enjoying tapas with friends after work. Now you should have a better understanding of what these activities say about Spanish cultural values.
I challenge you to start thinking more about time in the U.S. and how we spend it. What do those activities say about American cultural values? What do we spend most of our time doing or not doing? After thinking about how Americans and Spaniards each spend their time, is there anything we can learn from each other or should adopt from one another?
Further Spain Resources: